Test & Measurement

Choosing a software environment for data acquisition

23 June 2021 Test & Measurement

The different software options available for DAQ applications and the Measurement Computing Corporation’s (MCC) support for these options.

Data acquisition (DAQ) software is available in three basic categories:

• Ready-to-run, pre-configured applications.

• General-purpose programming environments.

• Application-specific programming environments.

Ready-to-run applications

Ready-to-run, pre-configured applications are the simplest to use since they don’t require programming or special skills to sample data. These applications are designed to easily perform common tasks such as configuring devices and channels and logging and displaying data.

Although easy to use, the downside of these ready-to-run applications is that they cannot handle more complex tasks. If your needs outgrow the capabilities of the application, choose another application that supports your needs, or move into a programming environment.

MCC’s ready-to-run applications include TracerDAQ, TracerDAQ Pro, DAQami and InstaCal, all of which support Windows OS.

TracerDAQ and TracerDAQ Pro comprise a set of virtual instrument applications used to generate, acquire, analyse, display and export data. Functions provided include a strip chart, oscilloscope, function generator and rate generator. The Pro version provides enhanced features.

DAQami is a drag-and-drop software interface used to acquire, view and log data. DAQami can be configured to log analog channels and to view that data in real-time or post-acquisition on user-configurable displays.

InstaCal is an interactive utility that configures MCC hardware and performs calibration tasks for supported devices. InstaCal provides the fastest way to confirm that valid signals can be acquired. InstaCal can read and write analog and digital signals in order to test the device functionality and to confirm sensor connections and sensor integrity.

General-purpose programming environments

Programming environments such as Python, C/C++, C#, Visual Basic and Java are general-purpose, text-based languages. These are the most flexible and lowest-cost programming options, but are also the most challenging and time consuming to learn. Those who have previous programming knowledge are more likely to have success in these languages than those who have no programming experience.

MCC offers numerous options for low-level programmers for any programming environment and any operating system, such as the Universal Library (UL), UL for Android, UL for Linux and the DASYLab Python script module.

Universal Library

Supporting Windows OS, this is a programming library of function calls for C, C++, VB, C# .Net and VB .Net using Visual Studio and other integrated development environments (IDEs). The UL includes a driver with a common application programming interface (API) for most MCC data acquisition boards and devices.

UL for Linux

Open-source Linux support for the most popular MCC devices, with interfaces for C and Python and support for Linux or macOS. UL for Linux is easy to use and is supported and maintained by MCC.

Python support

Python is a powerful object-oriented programming language. Many MCC products – including most USB, Ethernet and Bluetooth hardware – are supported under the open-source MCC Universal Library Python API for Windows. Linux support is available as part of the MCC Universal Library for Linux package.

DASYLab Python Script Module

Python script is supported in the DASYLab Full and Pro editions and allows users to create custom modules with Python script. This feature brings DASYLab DAQ and analysis features to those who prefer to program in a text-based language.

UL for Android

Programming library of function calls for Java programmers who develop apps for Android-based tablets and phones. UL for Android communicates with select MCC DAQ devices.

Application-specific programming environments

Application-specific programming environments are single-vendor solutions that target particular segments. Popular icon-based programming applications in this category include NI LabVIEW and DASYLab. These environments focus on test, measurement and control functions and provide a rich environment for test and measurement applications. MathWorks’ MATLAB focuses on technical computing and modelling and provides a popular scripting environment for acquiring data from a device and analysing this data.

Application-specific programs are easier to learn than general-purpose programming environments like C and are a great choice for those that aren’t trained programmers. The downside of a high-level programming environment is the relatively high cost to purchase, with both MATLAB and NI LabVIEW costing a significant sum for a single licence, while DASYLab is a less expensive option.

Another item to consider is the limited number of programmers relative to general-purpose environments. There are far more C programmers than NI LabVIEW, DASYLab or MATLAB programmers. This is an important consideration if you need to maintain an application over a long period.

MCC offers drivers for NI LabVIEW (ULx for NI LabVIEW) and DASYLab. Drivers for MATLAB are available for many MCC devices on the MathWorks website. All of the following supporting Windows OS.

ULx for NI LabVIEW

A comprehensive library of VIs and example programs for NI LabVIEW that is used to develop custom applications that interact with most MCC devices.


Icon-based data acquisition, graphics, control and analysis software that allows users to create complex applications in minimal time without text-based programming.


High-level language and interactive environment for numerical computation, visualisation and programming. The Data Acquisition Toolbox, provided by Mathworks, allows users to acquire data from most MCC PCI and USB devices.


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